Sewing Blog

Easily Sew Knits With Any Type of Machine

Sewing with knits can be much more freeing than sewing with woven fabrics. For starters, they usually require considerably less fitting than their woven counterparts. Their inherent stretchiness is much more forgiving when you're fitting. They also are extremely comfortable. I find knit dresses to be great for traveling when I'll be spending a long time sitting on cars or planes. I can look nice with considerably less fuss! 

sewing knits_dress

Photo via Rosie Wednesday

Whether you have a regular sewing machine or a serger, rest assured that there's an easy way for you to sew knit garments that look great. I'll show you some examples of finished garments sewn with a regular sewing machine, serger and a special type of machine you could use to finish your edges — a cover stitch machine. 

Sewing knits with a regular machine 

When sewing knits with a regular machine, the zigzag stitch is the stitch you need. It allows knits to continue to stretch as you wear them. If you were to try a regular stitch on a knit, it would pop over time because it can't stretch with the fabric (I've had this happen to me, long before I knew about such things). 

Test out the length of the zigzag stitch on your fabric before you sew to see what looks right, but you'll likely want a shorter stitch, around 1.5, for topstitching, and a longer one, around 2.5, for sewing seams. 

knits zig zag top stitch

The nice thing about a knit fabric is that it doesn't fray. So when you finish a seam or edge with a zigzag, you don't need to do anything else to it. Although sometimes I will go back in with a pair of embroidery scissors to trim it a bit if I wasn't as accurate as I had hoped! 

inside knits with zig zag

Sewing knits with a serger

With a serger, little knives trim your fabric and incase it in thread while you sew the seam. They use four threads to sew. You might already be using it to finish your seams on woven fabric. A seam constructed with a serger is also stretchy, so you can get a really nice finish while also having a usable seam for your knit garments. 

knits serged seams 

Here I've also added a strip of elastic at the shoulder seam when I serged it on. I've found that it helps to stabilize seams that get a lot of wear, like your shoulder and waist. I just treat it like a third layer in the fabric when I serge the seam and feed them all in together. 

If you have a serger but not a cover stitch machine, you'll still need to topstitch your seams with a zigzag stitch, as demonstrated above. 

Sewing knits with a cover stitch machine

If you are interested in finishing your edges a different way than with a zigzag, you might find a cover stitch machine to be very useful. These are sometimes combined with a serger, in which case they'll have six threads, or they can be purchased as separate machines. 

A cover stitch machine acts a lot like a serger, except there are no knives to cut your fabric. If combined with a serger, you'll just be switching the knives off. It makes a nice top stitch, where the top has two even rows of stitching. 

knits coverstitch 

And the inside will have a stitch that looks like a chain. 

knits inside coverstitch

A cover stitch machine will allow you to create a really professional finish to your knit garments. 

That's all there is to it! Ta da! Knits are pretty exciting, aren't they? 

sewing knits tee

Whether you choose to use your regular sewing machine or buy a speciality machine to sew your knit garments, you'll end up with a finish product that is lovely and comfortable. 

Have you tried any of these methods? What's your favorite way to sew knits?  

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9 Comments

Jen

As another option for non-serger owners, a twin needle can easily be used to mimic a cover stitch hem, and it also has some stretch to it. So long as the machine has zigzag capability (i.e., a slot that is wide enough for 2 needles) it’s possible – just need to have 2 spools of thread to draw from.

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Misha

I totally agree with Jen. Using a twin needle on a regular machine is a great way to top stitch knit garments.

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Vicki

Yes, I agree with Jen and Misha, twin needles are fantastic for finishing knit garments. Use some wooly nylon thread in your bobbin and back off the tension a bit and the back of your twin needle stitching will look very neat as well.

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Carolyn

Early good ideas other in the tutorial and the comments. And I would like to see the author sitting ON a car as she is traveling!!

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BigH

Guess what? This is not an English class.

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Roseann Boll

My sewing machine is an older model; probably from the 1980’s or earlier. Can I learn to sew from your classes, on my old machine?
RetroSewer1

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Marilee Berg

Roseanne, if your older machine has zig zag capabilities, you can use it for knit techniques such as are I this tutorial. If you’re asking about Craftsy courses in general, I’d say …. It depends on the course. Most courses list which supplies and equipment you will need, so have a look at that list before signing up. Some only require a straight stitch machine. It’s important that your machine be in good working order and you’re familiar with how to use it. A good repair shop should be able to give your older sewing machine a tune up and get it humming. Don’t forget to use fresh new needles!

I have found that many, if not most, home sewing projects can be made on very basic machines. Sponsors, dealers and those who will profit from the sale of fancy new machines with tons of features would like the sewing public to think they “need” a fancy and expensive new machine for basic sewing, but that’s just not true, though you may wish to upgrade at some later time.

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carol corbin

I would like to buy this pattern for knit dresses where would I go for that?

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Vicki

I use my seger and stretch needles.

Reply

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